GPH, MILF reset talks for 2nd week of April; Deles says PNoy sought postponement

By | March 26, 2013

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/25 March) –  The peace panels of the Philippine government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have agreed to reset the talks scheduled this week, for the second week of April.

“The parties agreed to meet in the second week of April 2013 for the 37th round of Formal Peace Talks,” the four-paragraph Joint Statement signed late Monday afternoon  in Kuala Lumpur by GPH peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer and MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal, said.

The March 25 to 27 peace negotiations in Kuala Lumpur did not push through as scheduled,  upon the request of President Benigno Simeon Aquino.  But no reason was cited for the requested postponement.

“The President has requested that the 37th round of formal exploratory talks that was originally scheduled to begin today, March 25, be reset to April next month,” Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles said in a six-paragraph statement posted on the website of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) at 2:42 p.m. Monday, March 25.

Instead of a peace negotiation, the  two parties held a “special meeting” at the Palace of the Golden Horses Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, the usual venue of the peace talks, which, according to their Joint Statement, “ended with a firm commitment …to continue the talks in an expeditious manner.”


The Joint Statement,  signed in the presence of Malaysian facilitator Tengku Dato’ Ab Ghafar Tengku Mohamed, said that they discussed the composition of the Third Party Monitoring Team and the Independent Commission on Policing, the convening of the Transition Commission in the first week of April 2013 and the Terms of Reference of the Task Force Sajahatra Bangsamoro.

No other details were made available.

Deles’ six-paragraph statement said Ferrer  and two other panel members – Yasmin Busran-Lao and Senen Bacani – were in Kuala Lumpur “to personally convey the request and to set with their counterparts the new date for the talks.”

The resumption of the talks has been hounded by criticisms if at all Malaysia should still remain as third party facilitator given the crisis in Sabah. (see other story).

This week’s round of talks would have worked on the last three of four annexes needed to complete their comprehensive peace agreement.

No reason was cited as to why the President sought a postponement. And out of six paragraphs, only one was on the postponement: the fourth paragraph.

The statement gave prominence to the first en banc meeting of the 15-member Transition Commission (TransCom) scheduled for the first week of April.

The document was titled “Statement of Sec. Teresita Quintos Deles on the forthcoming Transition Commission en banc meeting” and the first three paragraphs were on the TransCom.

The MILF-led transition body, composed of eight representatives from the MILF and seven from government,  is tasked to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law that would guide the  Bangsamoro, the “new autonomous political entity” that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) by 2016.

But the TransCom can effectively do its task only if the annexes are completed.

The four annexes – power-sharing, wealth-sharing, normalization and transitional arrangements and modalities, were supposed to have been finished, as agreed upon in the GPH-MILF Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB),  before end of December 2012.

Only the Annex on Transitional Arrangements was finished in the last talks in February.

But like the TransCom, the Transition Annex can work only if the three other annexes shall have been completed so both parties know what to transition to.

Also under the FAB, as soon as the Bangsamoro Basic Law is ratified, the ARMM is deemed abolished and the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) led by the MILF will take over until regular elections are held for the first set of officials  during the May 2016 Presidential polls.

Deles’ statement said Ferrer and Iqbal during their meeting in Kuala Lumpur Monday “will likewise discuss the preparations being undertaken for the Transition Commission.”

“As the President said today, “ Deles’ last paragraph read, “it is important to finish all the annexes, which requires reaching a meeting of the minds on these annexes. This will, in turn, help in the process of crafting a new organic act so that the final outcome will be legislation all stakeholders agree to, and rally behind. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)